I just said goodbye to Kelly and the dogs in Chicago and have flown back to Berkeley to a home empty of dogs. This is very different. Usually I say goodbye to Kelly and the dogs at home and then fly to Chicago en route to give seminars around the U.S. or abroad.
Kelly and I drove 2,500 miles from Berkeley to Chicago with Dune, Hugo, and ZhouZhou. I haven’t been on a road trip since 1981. America is a BIG country and there is so much wonderful scenery. We made good time to Salt Lake City and then meandered up to the Tetons. We had intended to drive through Yellowstone and then on to the Badlands but unfortunately we had to change plans. A rock slide forced us to take a 100-mile detour just to get to Jackson and then the Yellowstone roads North and East were blocked by snow, so we had to head back south through Wyoming to Interstate 80.
An additional spanner in the works was that ZhouZhou came into heat two days before we left and Dune is intact. This made for some interesting travel tales. Unfortunately we couldn’t let ZhouZhou off-leash with the other dogs when we went for a long walk along the Snake River and Dune and even little Hugo were a bit distracted at times. However, after being cramped up in the car all day long, the hotel evenings were nothing less than hilarious — Dogs Gone Wild!
Dune and Hugo pursued ZhouZhou (clad in protective panties) in a game of courtship agility, bouncing from bed to bed. We didn’t let them bark, but in North Platte there was an uproarious wedding party on our floor and no one seemed to mind the dogs playing.
We stayed in hotels recommended by dogfriendly.com. Marvelous recommendations. All three hotels not only accepted dogs but actively welcomed them and gave us rooms next to exits to potty areas. The Holiday Inn Express in SLC was unbelievably gracious and the La Quinta in North Platte was nothing less than expansive luxury — almost the size of an agility field.
Travelling with the dogs made me reflect on how quickly we grow accustomed to our dogs when living with them at home. Living with dogs becomes easier and easier as the dogs learn (and come to expect) the daily routine. They know when the day begins and when it ends, when they’re going to eat, when and where they are going to walk, where to find their favorite toys, and where they can periodically snooze, safely and cozily, during the day and at night. I love the ease of this familiarity and miss it so when it’s gone, or interrupted.
Of course when you’re on the road with your dogs, every day is different. There is lots of driving and every place is a different place. Good training is required to teach the dogs to let off steam quietly and to settle down in unfamiliar places and at unusual times. Even simple things like input-output require training — guidance when they must eat their food and drink their water at different times in different places and then to pee and poop pronto so we can get get back on the road again. I was impressed that the dogs adapted so quickly. Hugo, especially, became accustomed to the luxuries of hotel travel after just one night.
Also, the dogs got to meet so many new people. Apparently, we were travelling with three social butterflies who greeted everyone with enthusiasm and manners. We have been staying in the South Chicago ‘burbs for a couple of weeks with Kelly’s sister’s family with lots of kids who wanted to train and play fetch, tug, chase, and hide ‘n seek with all three dogs. The only mishap: ZZ and Dune knocked out one screen door apiece. (They were not used to screen doors and so just ran through them. No permanent damage though; I put them back in before the relatives came home.)
Best of all, the trip was a wonderful opportunity for the dogs to become acquainted with each other and learn how to get along in new environments. Just a few months ago we had a stable and fun-loving pack, and then we adopted ZhouZhou and the other dogs simply hated her nonstop intrusive activity. Then dear old Claude died. Changes again. This latest trip turned out to be a marvelous bonding experience for our new pack and they have learned to thoroughly enjoy each other’s company.
And now, after flying back, I am staying for a week or so in a very strange place — a dog-less home without Kelly. I haven’t stayed in a home without dogs since 1981. Maybe this is the ideal time for me to re-bond with the cats.
Ian Dunbar is a veterinarian, canine behaviorist, and puppy training pioneer. He is the founder of SIRIUS® Puppy Training; Scientific Director for www.dogstardaily.com; and author of several best-selling books and videos. For more information, visit www.siriuspup.com.